If You Install Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 (XP SP3) You May Have to Say Goodbye to Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) Forever

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If you install Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 (XP SP3) and either already have, or upgrade to, Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), you will never again be able to use IE6. That is the word on Microsoft Developer Network’s Internet Explorer blog, where Microsoft have just published an article on IE and XP Service Pack 3 that may cause you to think again before upgrading your version of Internet Explorer. Prematurely installing Service Pack 3 will block your ability to downgrade IE7/8 back to IE6.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (XPSP3) contains updates, bug fixes and security updates, and is shortly to be released for public download. You should consider installing it to keep your operating system up to date with the latest security fixes. Before you do, though, identify which version of Internet Explorer you are currently using.


If you’re using IE6, you have nothing to worry about. XPSP3 will install an updated version of IE6, pulling all your browser data forward, and your browsing experience should continue unaffected.

But if you’re using IE7, and download XPSP3 on top of it, you will lose the ability to remove IE7 and downgrade to IE6. Why remove IE7? Read some of the comments to our IE7 – Should You Install It? thread, some of whom regret their installation of IE7, and all their resulting problems. Consider also that IE6 is still the most popular, with almost 70% of corporate IE users remaining on IE6.

  • If you are currently using IE7 on XP Service Pack 2 (XPSP2), and you want to retain the option to downgrade to IE6 in the future, you should first remove IE7 (through the Control Panel’s Add/Remove Programs); install XPSP3; and then re-install IE7.
  • If you’re reading this after you’ve installed XPSP3 on top of an XPSP2/IE7 combination and want to downgrade to IE6 you’ve got a little more work to do. You must first uninstall XPSP3, and uninstall IE7. Then re-install XPSP3. Finally, if you wish, re-install IE7. If you don’t wish, you’ll still have the latest version of IE6 that was installed as part of your XPSP3 install.

If you’re beta testing IE8 Beta1, you are recommended to uninstall it before you install XPSP3, and then re-install it. Since you’re much more likely to uninstall beta software (for Beta2 or final released versions), we strongly recommend you follow this procedure.

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So, Windows XP users, have you been tempted by the sleek new user interface of Internet Explorer 7, the tabbed and tiled browsing, and the much easier access to and management of your bookmarks, er, ‘favorites’? Or are you wrestling with lost data, instability and other problems. Give us your opinions and experiences, good and bad, at IE7 – Should You Install It?. And if you’re in the position to, consider alternative browsers, especially Firefox. It’s free. It’s fast. And it just plain works.

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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3 thoughts on “If You Install Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 (XP SP3) You May Have to Say Goodbye to Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) Forever

  1. From the MSDN blog article, it doesn’t seem that you can never downgrade from IE7/XPSP3 to IE6, just that it’s a pain in the lower back to unload IE7, unload XPSP3 and then to reinstall them in the right order. I’m sure many people will mess it up. Just use Firefox with a set of useful extensions.

  2. As you say, the solution is Firefox (with the IE Tab extension for those sites that still insist on IE). In fact, why not go the whole hog and use OpenOffice as well. If you are really keen, Linux.

    If you do want to try/use Linux, the simplest way is to use Wubi to install Ubuntu Linux as an application along side Windows. Dual boot without partition.

  3. Hi,

    I’m sure you meant the subject to say that you can’t go back to IE6, after installing SP 3 with IE7 in place.

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